Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s night in the East Village doesn’t go as planned
Last night, the anxious crowd queuing down Alphabet City’s East 3rd street outside the Nuyorican Poets Café for a storytelling event was ready to take matters into their own hands. It looked like we weren’t getting in, and a young woman pointed to a fellow near the front of the line in dreadlocks and shouted.
“They’re not letting him to tell his story. So he’s going to tell us one outside! Who wants to hear a story?!”
We all cheered. The 60-something Puerto Rican doorman with an unruly mustache sprung into action against the storytelling vigilantes.
“There’s no storytelling on the street! This place isn’t like it used to be. This lady that lives next door will come down here and say, ‘Keep it down! I pay $4,000 to live in these apartments.’ Then she’ll call the cops.”
“That’s just wrong!” called out a disgruntled patron in line.
I wasn’t sure if she meant the infringement of First Amendment storytelling rights in Alphabet City, or the fact that the woman was paying that much to live there.
I had come to my old ‘hood to experience a storytelling night from an organization called The Moth, recently profiled in the New York Times. What started out as an underground get together of people interested in sharing, well, stories, has turned into another way of meeting agents and producers—scoring an Off-Broadway show or book deal.
And hey, I’m willing to try anything to help get Alphabet City published—and also to keep up my enthusiasm for the project despite the daily onslaught of rejection (from agents, not you dear readers). This blog is one of the ways I’m trying to escape the isolation of writing—getting it out there for people to read. A shout out and thank-you to everyone who has commented either here or on Facebook—it means the world to me to get any type of feedback. Keep it coming!
So, I thought checking out a storytelling night might spur some extra connections or ideas about what to do next—Alphabet City the one-man show or musical, anyone? My friend Shannon—star of my movie GayTV and one of the KFC Glamour Girls in one of my crazier PR stunts (see Episodes 1-9 and scroll down to bottom for picture)—was the perfect companion for the night. She had participated in a Moth storytelling event back in the days when people still called the East Village Alphabet City.
As I walked to meet Shannon, I passed by all the signs of continued gentrification of the old ‘hood—Whole Foods (mentioned in yesterday’s post), Chase Bank on 2nd Street (another institution Juan Pablo and I we desperately desired), and an Extreme Makeover Dog Run Edition in Tompkins Square—complete with sandy gravel and a fancy wooden sundeck with benches to keep owners and pooches from getting muddy (where was that for foofy white Frida?).
With no more room at the storytelling inn, and no possibility of an al fresco impromptu performance, Shannon and I retreated to Matilda, a restaurant on Ave. C claiming to offer “Tusc-Mex” cuisine. Italian and Mexican fusion? As one half of a traditional Tex-Mex couple I was suspicious, but definitely intrigued.
The drink menu immediately caught our attention—definitely living up to the Tusc-Mex mix.
No traditional margaritas—instead the “Prosejito” with lime, sugar, mint and prosecco was inventive and delicious, and several drinks later, we were on our own storytelling roll. The guacamole is mixed with basil and served with slivers of focaccia, which sounds odd but totally works. The Tamalito Vegeteriano was polenta mixed with poblanos and mozzarella wrapped traditionally and served with a jicama-basil-oregano salad. Already I’ve demanded Chef Juan Pablo try this at home.
This type of inventive and sleek restaurant on Ave. C was just one more symbol of neighborhood gentrification. But then I got the bill, and put down a credit card to pay. The skinny waiter in skinny jeans with nearly 13 piercings in one ear shook his head.
“Sorry, cash only.”
Oh, East Village. Some things will never change it seems. At least I hope not.